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Welcome to the new prince

by
26 July 2013

ANY woman who has been pregnant during a heatwave will share the Duchess of Cambridge's relief at the safe delivery of her son on Monday afternoon. The caveat, of course, is that the child will never again be as safe as he was in utero. The safety of the Prince is a concern not just of his parents but of a nation. Many will envy his privileges, and his family's wealth will protect him from the worst dangers that face other infants born on the same day across the world in poverty and insecurity. But every human child is subject to the same dangers of accident or ill-health, and to these are added the threats that mean that he will almost certainly need to be accompanied by security personnel for the whole of his life.

Beyond the threats, there is the question of happiness. Those who fantasise about changing places with him might wish to ask themselves which freedoms they would be willing to give up to do so. The new Prince will be unable to explore the world around him, and his own place in it, without the dead hand of 24-hour international attention. This will range from sentimental attraction, some of it bordering on the deranged, to simple prurience. He will grow up in a family whose members all have to cope with this level of interest in their own way, and some have coped better than others. The discretion of friends and the restraint of many in the media (not merely the result of coercion) enabled Prince William and Prince Harry to grow up in a relatively normal - if not typical - manner. The explosion of internet media outlets means that such deals are now no longer effective. Paradoxically, the safest place away from this attention might well be the military, where loyalty to the Crown can be enforced by discipline.

Looking further ahead, he will be groomed for the throne, but, like his grandfather, might wait most of his life before being given the opportunity to shoulder the burden. He will be expected to devote much of his time to public works. Although these are a privilege, having the freedom to choose to do them is a greater privilege. Every friendship and every romantic contact will be scrutinised, since he has inherited the responsibility for future generations of monarchs.

Two things will transform such a future from being purely burdensome: a life of luxury and a life of faith. The Prince will find it easy to surround himself with objects and people who furnish his immediate wants. But if he wishes to emulate his great-grandmother, and secure the future of the monarchy, he needs to find a greater source of both comfort and challenge. Amid all that he inherits - the palaces, the bloodstock, the organic biscuits - the supreme governorship of the Church of England might, after his baptism, be the best gift that he receives.

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